Who let the dog out?Who let the dog out?Bryan PopePope

​​​​​In the early days of the Real Estate Red Zone podcast, we had a tradition each Halloween of sharing horror stories from real estate professionals. By "horror stories" I mean real estate transactions gone hilariously bad, and by "tradition" I mean we did it twice over nine years​.

Anyway, next week we're resurrecting the fun with a slew of stories for your listening enjoyment. In the meantime, here's an experience from a College Station Realtor friend of mine. He said it warranted a change of pants.

"I was representing the homebuyer and had confirmed with the listing agent that it was okay to show his listed property on the following day. The property was a rather decrepit home in an older part of town, and the listing notes indicated that the owner had a dog that would bark at us when we got there, but there was nothing to fear in terms of personal safety.

"The buyer a​​nd I arrived the following day, right on time for the showing. I noticed a car in the driveway, which was a little odd, considering real estate agents usually advise their seller clients to leave the property during showings.

"Usually I use the lockbox to get the key, then I call out when I step inside so anyone who is still in the house will know I am there. This situation seemed a bit off, so I knocked on the door and, true to form, the barking begins, but no one answers. The bark sounded like that of a small terrier with an inferiority complex—high pitched, ferocious, and incessant. I rang the doorbell. Still no answer, and the barking intensified. At this point, I figured I should go with plan A (get the key from the lockbox and call out).

"I got the key, unlocked the door, and opened it a crack. The dog wasn't visible, but the barking was loud enough for me to tell he was nearby. I also heard the faint sounds of a shower running.

"I stepped inside with my client behind me, and the dog was about five feet away, yipping his little head off. He was a white terrier mix about the size of a schnauzer. I called out again, sure that there was someone in the house that the little dog was protecting. Sure enough, a rather confused-looking elderly man emerged from a bedroom doorway with wet hair and a towel around his waist. Clearly there had either been some miscommunication about the showing or he had forgotten about it.

"The man asked that we step back outside while he got dressed and put the dog away. As we did, the dog seized his opportunity and lunged for my calf, ripping my pants and almost breaking the skin. He left a bruise.

"Seeing this, the buyer lost all interest in the property, and we left, never to return."

The moral, my friend said, is sellers need to crate or remove dogs before showings. It might cost them more than a new pair of trousers.

For more stories, tune into next week's Real Estate Red Zone ​podcast.

Cramping our fracking styleCramping our fracking styleBryan PopePope

fracking word image 

​​​English is fun, isn’t it? And I mean "fun" in a just-beat-me-over-the-head-with-an-Oxford-English-Dictionary-until-I’m-unconscious kind of way.

Take the word "fracing," for instance. Not familiar with it? You must not work in the oil and gas industry. How about "fracking"? Ah, that rings a bell.

These two spellings have occasionally been the subject of lighthearted controversy here at the Real Estate Center. So much so that they earned their own entry in our office style guide.

Some quick background for the uninitiated: fracing and fracking are both shorthand for "hydraulic fracturing," which is the process of injecting liquid at high pressure deep into a well to create tiny fissures in the rock, allowing gas and oil to flow into the well. Same meaning but slightly different spellings ("fracing" being the standard spelling within the oil and gas industry).

I did a lot of reading on the subject before recommending the Center depart from the industry standard and adopt the k-inclusive spelling, and the most informative piece on the subject came from drillers.com​. You can read that yourself (and you should because it’s interesting). Instead, let’s skip down to the reader feedback. That’s always fun. One reader wrote:

"My first encounter with the 'k' spelling was in a news article of a major national publication about five years ago. The article was clearly slanted against the entire practice of hydraulic stimulation. I responded to the author that there is no 'k' in the root word 'fracturing' and it made no sense to spell the word 'frack' or 'fracking.' The author wrote back that 'inclusion of the k made the word sound more evil.' I forwarded this email to the author’s chief editor and encouraged the editor to demand objective reporting from his employees and to save editorials for the editorial pages."

"More evil"? True, the shorthand use, regardless of how it’s spelled, is itself viewed by some in the drilling industry as a pejorative. Rest assured that this is not, nor has it ever been, the case here at the Real Estate Center.

But back to the spelling. All industries and occupations have their own lingo and terminology, and we generally follow industry standards. Sometimes, though, we have to consider the greater good—in this case, clarity for our general audience.

Read those words again out loud: Fracing. Fracking. Fracing. Fracking.

I’m willing to bet the first inclination for many of you was to pronounce the no-k version as "fray-sing." Hey, I did when I first read it. But "frack-ing" (pronounced like "lacking") is the proper pronunciation for both. As an editor, the last thing I want is our readers tripping over a word simply because they followed basic rules of English pronunciation (“rules” that frequently contradict themselves and make me consider expatriating somewhere that has a language that makes more sense, but whatever).

Google backs us up. Searching for "fracking" just now turned up about 10.8 million results. "Fracing" brought back a comparatively scant 414,000 and the question "Did you mean 'fracking'?"

Also worth noting: A spell check of this article showed five misspellings, all for the same word. Guess which one.

Six things to watch for in Texas real estate this weekSix things to watch for in Texas real estate this weekBryan PopePope

​The Real Estate Center’s research staff held its monthly roundtable meeting earlier this week, focusing largely on employment and housing. Here are six takeaways.

  • The job growth rate is rapidly increasing in Texas’ micropolitan cities (those with populations between 10,000 and 50,000 and that are outside a Metropolitan Statistical Area). In August, 8.6 percent of total Texas jobs were in micropolitans.

  • Texas’ nonfarm job growth currently derives largely from mining and logging, construction, professional and business services, and other services.

  • Our economists project a 4.1 percent growth rate for the state’s GDP for 2018, assuming oil prices don’t drop significantly.

  • Home prices in Texas are still lower than those in many markets outside the state. However, relative to itself, Texas has gotten more expensive.

  • On the other hand, home-price growth in the state’s major metros is slowing down.

  • According to the Center’s research of Texas home prices, low-tier homes are generally appreciating at a higher rate than mid-tier and high-tier homes in Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Austin.

For more on the state’s housing market, visit the "Housing Activity​" page of our website.

Free land (data)Free land (data)Hayley RiederRieder

​​Rural land chart over photos of Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana landYou may know that the Real Estate Center has rural land price and tract size data for Texas. But if you live in some of our neighboring states, you might be having trouble finding the data you need.

Well, Southerners rejoice! The Center now has rural land price data for Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. 

Data of this kind can be found nowhere else. 

Users can access analyses of prices and tract sizes regionally and statewide going back to fourth quarter 2005. Land market trend analyses are also available.

Many other publicly available land data use responses from surveys and are often unable to capture the entire market and may be biased. 

On the contrary, our unique data aggregate actual market data, truly representing the local markets. 

The information can be used by potential buyers and sellers of land to get an idea of market trends taking place on either a regional or statewide basis.

These data are in addition to rural land data for Texas, its regions, and its land market areas going back to fourth quarter 1971. 

The reports indicate past general conditions in these markets and do not represent prices or values of any particular farm or ranch. They do provide a general guide to land market price levels and size trends.

The best part of this new tool? It's free, easy to use, and can be found exclusively on the Center's website. No signup required. 

Not clickbait: Center social media presence blossoms Not clickbait: Center social media presence blossoms Hayley RiederRieder
2018-09-06T05:00:00ZCenter News

​​​​Social media is a great way for the Real Estate Center to effectively market its research to its constituents across Texas. Whether you're a broker from Laredo looking for home price stats or an Amarillo homebuilder searching for permit data, we can get the information to you through social media.

Last year, we began a massive push toward digital marketing and saw huge success. But this year, we stepped up our game.

Across our four most loved platforms—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram—we collectively posted over 2,000 times from August 2017 to August 2018. And y'all seemed to like them, interacting with the posts nearly 21,500 times.

We've gained more than 5,500 followers across all our platforms. LinkedIn gained the highest percentage of followers, growing 77.9 percent since August 2017.   

We “live-Tweeted" our Texas Land Conference in April for the second year in a row, posting commentary while the event took place. This year, our Tweets were viewed more than 11,700 times over the course of the two-day conference. Last year, they were viewed less than 9,000 times.

We also streamed live on Facebook three times during the conference, and around 600 people tuned in from the comfort of their own homes (or offices).

We also like to have some fun, so we celebrated many world events with our own REC twist. On social media, we commemorated the World Series, National Dollar Day, and even World Emoji Day. Thanks for celebrating with us.

This was a successful year for the Center's social media. We took what we learned last year and used it to give our followers what they want and need quickly and efficiently.

But we couldn't have done it without you. So thank you for following us and making this year our best yet. We can't wait to see what the next 12 months bring.

Don't forget to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. You'll get the best of the Real Estate Center every day.​

Real Estate Center Social Media Infographic

Houston housing: A year after HarveyHouston housing: A year after HarveyLuis TorresTorres

​A year ago, Hurricane Harvey poured 40-plus inches of rain across Houston, paralyzing economic activity for nearly a week. The Federal Emergency Management Agency reported more than 161,000 homes damaged in the Houston Metropolitan Statistical Area. Of those, 24 percent were uninhabitable for at least 30 days. Despite the severity of this multibillion-dollar storm, Houston's housing market has rebounded completely and continues to expand.

As discussed in the article “Imperfect Storm​," while flooding stretched across Houston, the destruction was unevenly distributed.

Geographically, the northeast suffered disproportionately, followed by the region south of downtown. The most concentrated destruction occurred in two contiguous ZIP codes (77078 and 77028), where around 70 percent of homes incurred damages. Both regions (which comprise East Houston, Houston Gardens, and Settagast) contain stretches of Halls Bayou, which flows into Greens Bayou on the eastern edge of 77078.

The next most damaged ZIP codes (77026 and 77044) were also in northeastern Houston or on Halls Bayou (77037), where about half of the housing stock was damaged.

After a year, how are home sales and prices doing in the five most damaged ZIP codes? The ZIP code (77044) with the highest number of sales and prices has registered increased sales and prices while the months of inventory remain low (see Figures 1, 2 and 3). The same is true for the 77037 ZIP code.

In contrast, the sales and prices of the most damaged ZIP code (77078) are below Harvey levels, but that area has three months of inventory. This sends mixed signals on how the market is doing, since sales are above and months of inventory are below their historical averages while prices have registered a steady decline since September 2017. This shows either some possible negative effects from Harvey or simply the particular characteristics of that housing market.

The other two ZIP codes had mixed results. One of them, 77028, has positive sales but negative price growth after Harvey. The other, 77026, has negative sales and positive price growth, but the months of inventory is rising, signaling that prices could start to decline, making it a market to watch.

The problem with four of the most damaged ZIP codes is that market activity is volatile because of low activity, making it difficult to distinguish clear trends. But the general net effect is that the market seems to be somewhat better off than or basically the same as a year ago.

Monthly home sales graph

Average price per square foot graph

Months of inventory graph

Houston ZIP code map

Buying a 'pad' in the '50sBuying a 'pad' in the '50sDavid JonesJones, D.


Sixty years from now, homebuyers likely will marvel at all the paperwork associated with buying a home in 2018. Perhaps Texans living in 2078 will have true paperless transactions.

I say “perhaps" because it seems real estate transactions have become more complicated over the last six decades.

While cleaning out the garage recently, I came across some old paperwork from when my parents-in-law bought their first home.

The year was 1958.

Upon writing a check for $424 earnest money ($400 principal and $24 interest), D.B. and Pearl Kiser got the ball rolling on the purchase of a ten-year-old, 1,200-square-foot home on 35th St. in Lubbock.

The paperwork was interesting. The absence of other documents reveals how times have changed.

Sales back then were “as is" because there was no formal inspection required. Because there was no inspection, the idea of an option period didn't come up either. There was no need for a lead-based paint disclosure because it would only have revealed what everyone knew. Houses were covered in lead-based paint.

There probably was a survey on file, but it wasn't part of the sale. And, of course, the buyer had to take the seller's word for the condition of the property; there was no such thing as a seller's disclosure in 1958.

The last sixty years have seen the creation of numerous other forms and disclosures dealing with homeowner association rules, water levels of nearby impoundments, home warranties, third-party financing, and so on.

Today's transactions state which improvements are part of the real property. Buyers and sellers agree that the plumbing comes with the house. In 1958, buyers were just glad the plumbing was indoors.

Don't be misled. The Kisers new purchase did come with deed restrictions. Paragraph eight prohibited construction of a “tourist camp" on the property. Paragraph ten says, “No hogs shall be kept on any portion of the said addition, and not more than two head of cattle shall be kept at each residence."

And that's just the evolution of the Texas sales transaction. Just imagine how things have changed in the last 60 years in California. 

International homebuying activity goes downInternational homebuying activity goes downLuis TorresTorres

​​The National Association of Realtors recently reported that the sales of U.S. residential real estate to foreigners fell from $153 billion in 2017 to $121 billion in 2018, registering a 21 percent decline (Figure 1). Media outlets nationwide reported that the decline was due to Chinese buyers purchasing fewer U.S. homes. This is a small part of the story since Chinese purchases fell 4 percent by dollar volume and 0.4 percent by number of homes.

The main reason foreign pu​rchases fell considerably was the decline in purchases by Canada, Mexico, and the United Kingdom (Figure 2).

Purchases by Mexican buyers registered the biggest decline (55 percent by dollar volume and 29 percent by number of homes), followed by Canadian buyers (45 percent, 19 percent), and United Kingdom buyers (23 percent, 30 percent). Even India registered a decline of 8 percent by dollar volume and 12 percent by number of home purchases.

These five countries represent the majority of foreign purchases. In 2018, their market share dropped below 50 percent by dollar volume of sales.

So what happened? Why such a big decline?

The exchange rate played a role as an accumulated effect of depreciation of each country’s currency starting in 2016, but overall the exchange rates of these five countries appreciated with respect to the U.S. dollar from April 2017 to March 2018 when the survey was estimated (Figure 3).

The shortage of homes priced below $300,000 affected Canadian and Mexican buyers. The median price of homes purchased by Canadian and Mexican buyers during that period was $292,000 and $189,100, respectively. The uncertainty and headwinds surrounding international trade and immigration policy created a disincentive for people to purchase a home in the U.S.

The other thing to consider is that April 2016 to March 2017 (the previous year) was a peak year in dollar volume sales to buyers from those countries, especially Canada and Mexico, and sales have reverted back to historical trends. Country-specific factors are regulations on capital outflows implemented by the Chinese government, United Kingdom's BREXIT uncertainty, Canada's and Mexico's economic uncertainty about the outcome of NAFTA negotiations, and the slowing down of India’s economy in 2017.

Texas is the third major destination of international homebuyers, even with the decline of Mexican foreign buyers. International buyers purchased 24,012 homes in Texas from April 2017 to May 2018, representing 7 percent of the total sales in the state, a drop from 10 percent the previous year, with a market value around $15 billion.

​​​​​​​Foreign Buyer Home Purchases and World GDP Growth

Dollar Volume of Sales to Foreign Buyers from Top Five Countries 

Foreign Exchange Rate to One U.S. Dollar from Top Five Countries


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